>Spurs and City show title race is wide open

>In a weekend packed with goals, the unpredictable start to the campaign continued in superb style with a weekend of stunning goals, comebacks and sendings off.

In the first game of the weekend, Tottenham produced a sensational comeback at The Emirates to take all three points, and the bragging rights, against their North London arch rivals, as they won at Arsenal for the first time in seventeen years.

The Gunners raced into a two goal lead and looked to be in cruise control.  Much had been made before the game of Samir Nasri stating he would not shake the hand of former Gunner turned Spurs William Gallas. True to his word Nasri did not shake the fellow Frenchman’s hand, and it was not long before the pair continued their feud on the pitch.  Nasri though then let his football do the talking. Fabregas put him through, Gomes hesitated, and the Frenchman to finish well from a seemingly impossible angle.  The Gunners inspired by an in-form Fabregas made it two when Chamakh tapped in the second, and when the half-time whistle blew it seemed like Arsenal would be the ones taking the honours.

Nevertheless, Spurs had other ideas, and pulled a goal back almost immediately as Van Der Vaart managed to slip the impressive Gareth Bale through on goal to finish well.  The goal sparked life into the Tottenham players, and Modric was looking dangerous, just as Fabregas had done in the first half.  Tottenham were then awarded a free kick twenty five yards away from goal, which Van Der Vaart struck into the Arsenal wall.  Referee Phil Down correctly adjudged Fabregas to have handled the ball unnecessarily, and the resulting Tottenham penalty was despatched calmly by Van Der Vaart, who must be one of the bargains of the season. Arsenal then had a chance to take the lead as Kosceilny headed a glorious chance wide. The miss proved crucial as Kaboul glanced a header home four minutes from time to snatch all three points. The Spurs fans were jubilant and rightly so, while Wenger was left mulling over his side’s capitulation.

Just as impressive was Birmingham City’s one nil victory over Chelsea. The leaders travelled to Birmingham trying to put behind them two defeats in the previous three. However, Birmingham had other ideas as they took the lead through Lee Bowyer. The Birmingham defence resisted Chelsea’s attacking threat well with a combination of determination and bravery, much to the frustration of Ancelotti’s men.  Drogba hit the bar with a powerful header from Malouda’s cross, while Blues’ ‘keeper Ben Foster was in inspired form.  Chelsea pressed and pressed and provided a frantic final few minutes, but could not find a way to claim an all important point. The win moves Birmingham out of the relegation zone, while Chelsea only remain top of the league on goal difference.

Right on Chelsea’s tail are Manchester United, who picked up three points against nine man Wigan.  Patrice Evra and Hernandez scored headers to provide a comfortable win for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, who continue to win without finding top gear.  fFollowing his recent controversy surrounding his contract negotiation, Wayne Rooney made his return to action as a second half substitute to a mixed reception .  Wigan were then reduced to nine men quickly as Alcaraz and Rodallega saw red due to their frustrations.  

More impressive were the current league’s entertainers Bolton. [This is getting ridiculous! – Ed] The Wanderers beat Newcastle five goals to one thanks to braces from Elmander and Davies and a goal from Lee, while recent England call-up Carroll pulled one back for the visitors.  Bolton are clearly moving away from their one dimensional route of football that they were accused of playing under Megson, and have begun to play some impressive stuff under Coyle, with the goals flying in from everywhere.  Although they have not kept a clean sheet for some time, the rate at which they continue to score goals and beat their opposition is causing delight at The Reebok.

Elsewhere, Liverpool eased to a three nil win over struggling West Ham. The recently criticised Glenn Johnson scored the first, while Kuyt scored from the penalty spot to make it two.  Maxi added a third before half time and that was how the game stayed, with Liverpool seemingly happy with their evening’s work. Blackpool returned to winning ways with a two goals to one victory over Wolves.  Luke Varney and Marlon Harewood put Blackpool two up, while Kevin Doyle responded with his first goal of the season. The goal was not enough for Wolves, as Blackpool moved into the top half after taking all three points. Wolves dropped to second bottom.

In addition, Stoke comfortably beat West Brom three nil to make it three wins on the trot.  Jon Walters scored twice with Etherington getting the other as West Brom continue their slide down the table.

With Saturday’s action over, the attention turned to Sunday. Blackburn celebrated their new takeover with an impressive two nil win over Aston Villa. Morten Gamst Pederson scored a free kick just before the stroke of half time, which Freidel could have done better to save. The former Rovers’ stopper was then once again beaten by Pederson who diverted in a Ryan Nelson attempt.  Ashley Young came close for Villa with an effort that cannoned off the woodwork, but could not find a way past a resolute Blackburn defence.  New signing Robert Pires was introduced on sixty nine minutes, but could not do anything to force Villa back into the game.

The final game saw Mark Hughes host his former club Manchester City at Craven Cottage.  Many football fans thought Hughes was harshly treated by City when he was sacked just under a year ago with his side apparently on course to achieve a top six finish.  However, Mancini was brought in to replace him under Hughes’ nose, and the Italian ironically faced growing pressure heading into this game, following only one win in six.  The game began and City raced into the lead thanks to Carlos Tevez. Gareth Barry’s incisive pass found Tevez who struck home well.  The lead was then doubled thanks to fellow Argentinian Pablo Zabaleta, who lashed home from twenty five yards for only his second City goal. The goal provided the cushion that enabled City to hunt for more.  Yaya Toure scored a powerful effort, before Tevez added a fourth that had more than a slice of luck about it.  Fulham did not give up, and scored a consolation through Gera. In a weekend that saw Arsenal and Chelsea lose, City now lie only three points behind the leaders in this wide open title race.

by Oliver Holmes

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